Meat issue brings call for grocery to shut down Food passes inspection, but neighbors are wary

November 05, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Some Park Heights business leaders and residents are trying to force a new grocery store out of their Baltimore neighborhood because they allege it is selling outdated meat, but health inspectors report that the meat is safe.

Eun Mu Lee, the owner of Canaan Discount Foods, says he isn't going anywhere because his meats are good, even though the "sell-by" dates stamped on the packages have passed.

City health department officials last week inspected the store, at Park Heights and Hayward avenues since August, and reported that the meat "looked to be in good condition."

But some in the community are not convinced. Several people have been picketing the store since Friday, and were urging potential customers to stay away yesterday.

The store has "been here for four months and the meat they are selling is older than that," said Bill Goodin, vice president of Pimlico Merchants Association, which includes business owners in the area. "We ultimately want this store to go because it does not meet community standards."

At issue are meat products such as an 89-cent package of Butcher Wagon Franks in the store's freezer case. Stamped on the plastic in small red letters is Aug. 22 -- the sell-by date.

Park Heights resident Belinda Barnes is skittish about buying meat at the store.

"When I see that the date is old, I'm going to think that the meat is old," Barnes said.

Lee said the community doesn't understand how the meat business works.

He buys refrigerated meat from manufacturers before the "sell-by" dates expire, he said. He then freezes the meat and sells it as a frozen product well beyond the "sell-by" date.

City health officials said yesterday that the practice is legal and done by other retailers.

Bernard J. Bochenek, acting director of the city's Bureau of Food and Institutional Facilities, said yesterday that review of the store's files "do not show any problems."

Lee said that as a result of the picketing, business has dropped to "almost none."

Residents also complained to the health department that the store smelled bad. Fifth District Councilwoman Helen L. Holton, who toured the store, said the smell was overpowering.

Health inspectors wrote in a report last week that Lee should clean the floors to rid the store of bad odors.

Lee closed the store Friday to correct the problem, he said.

Holton said she hopes the residents' protest will be a lesson to other merchants.

Store manager Dan Donovan looks at the situation another way.

"We took over an abandoned building. Don't you think they would appreciate it?" Donovan said.

Pub Date: 11/05/96

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